Study finds section nine is no incentive

The government’s section nine policy is failing to speed up the return of asylum seekers to their countries of origin, according to research out this week.

None of the 116 families subject to section nine of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004 had returned to their country of origin and at least 35 were no longer in contact with services, a Barnardo’s study has found.

Under the piloting of the policy, benefits can be removed from failed asylum seekers if they don’t respond to a series of warnings to take steps to leave, making them destitute and faced with the possibility of their children being taken into care.

The government has said that section nine is not intended to make families destitute but is instead meant to “act as an incentive” for families to return voluntarily.

Alison Webster, Barnardo’s principal policy officer, said the policy was not an incentive and that the charity was “worried” about the government’s next step.

All of the 33 local authorities covered by the research, 18 of which were involved in piloting section nine, said it went against the Children Act 1989. Many were also fearful that implementing it would leave them open to judicial challenges.

And some believed the policy was a deliberate attempt to shift support from the Immigration and Nationality Directorate to local authority budgets.

A Home Office spokesperson said the government would consider the report’s findings.

The Refugee Children’s Consortium, which includes Barnardo’s, is  backing Labour MP Neil Gerrard’s amendment to the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill, currently in parliament,  to repeal section nine. 

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